A Pope For The Whiskey Priests

A reader writes:

Your post quoting Francis’s wish for a “bruised, hurting and dirty” Church suddenly sparked a match in my head – the face of the Whiskey Priest, the protagonist from one of my favourite novels, Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory. And all at once I put my finger on what it is that makes Francis so exciting – he is Greene’s pope. The priest of that novel is drunken, adulterous and self-destructive, weak and self-pitying. He is a “hollow man”, filthy and unshaven. But he is the greatest priest in all fiction because his is the church of the street, the church that will take you however awful or fallen or destitute you are. The church needs to hurt and fail too, if it is to properly care for a fallen people.

“It was too easy to die for what was good or beautiful,” reflects the priest. “It needed a God to die for the half-hearted and corrupt”. Even as an atheist teenager I remember being struck by this radically beautiful idea. I came to see two Catholic Churches in my head: the untouchable hypocritical Ratzingers caught up in that perfect web of procedure, and the repugnant filthy whisky priests seeing pity in all humanity.  That Francis sees the ideal of the Church to be poor tells me he’s on the right track.

We will never get a whiskey Pope, I suppose, which is a shame. But something tells me Greene would have liked the idea of a hurting church and a Pope who washes the feet of convicts.